CHINATOWN, THE COLONIAL DISTRICT,
CLARKE QUAY & BOAT QUAY.

Click for walking tour mapStarting your walking tour from the right place will save you time and ensure that you do not miss out on any of the places of interest. My pick would be to start the walk from Telok Ayer Street, the nearest MRT Station being Tanjong Pagar MRT Station (EW15).

At Tanjong Pagar MRT Station, turn right as you are leaving the Station Control area. Ride the escalator up, then look out for an underpass immediately to your left. That underpass will lead you directly to Telok Ayer Street.

TELOK AYER STREET

"Telok Ayer" means "watery bay" in Malay. In the old days, the Telok Ayer Street area was the waterfront.

In 1821, the first Chinese immigrants arrived by junk from China and set up their homes in the Telok Ayer Street area. Telok Ayer Street became the main landing site for the Chinese immigrants.

When the Chinese immigrants settled down, they built temples to give thanks to Ma Cho Po, the goddess of the sea, for their safe journey across the South China Sea to Singapore.

The first Chinese immigrants belonged to the Hokkien dialect group. The first temple they built was Thian Hock Keng or "Temple of Heavenly Happiness". This temple, built in 1821, is dedicated to Ma Cho Po. Walk along Telok Ayer Street and you will find the temple on your left at No. 158.

This colourful temple was assembled without nails. Admission to the temple is free. It is open from 7.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. daily.

ANG SIANG HILL

After visiting Thian Hock Keng, backtrack a little to where Telok Ayer Street meets Amoy Street. You will see a temple on your right. Next to the temple, there is a green sign which says "Ang Siang Hill". Follow that sign and the footpath will lead you up a flight of steps to Ang Siang Hill.

At the top of the flight of steps, turn right and stroll down Ang Siang Hill, which is lined by finely decorated shophouses. In the old days, many remittance houses and clan associations of the different Chinese dialect groups were located here. Today, the remittance houses are no longer here, but you can still find the clan associations, crammed with old photographs of their founders. Clan members still congregate here for their regular mahjong games. Most of the shophouses now house offices, pubs and restaurants.

Ang Siang Hill opens up to South Bridge Road. At the junction, you will find a Chinese medical hall selling sun-dried seahorse, ginseng, and other exotic medical products; most of which are unidentifiable!

SAGO STREET

Cross South Bridge Road, then turn left to get to Sago Street. This area was infamous for its "death houses", where the sick were left to die. These "death houses" are a thing of the past and Sago Street is now lined by shops selling Chinese pottery, Chinese cakes and pastries, and barbequed sweet meats (try some, they are really delicious!)

Walk to the end of Sago Street and you will arrive at Chinatown Complex. On the ground floor, there is a labyrinth of shops selling all and sundry. The most interesting part of the Complex is the wet market, located at its basement. The Chinese are reputed to eat everything from hoof to tail, and there's no better place to witness this than a market in the heart of Chinatown! You will be greeted by the sight of turtles, eels, pig trotters, live frogs being skinned and a fascinating array of fresh meat and seafood. Colourful tropical fruits and vegetables are abundant. There are also dry and preserved goods stalls selling a myriad of Chinese culinary needs from sharks' fin (I've boycotted that since I was old enough to understand the plight of the sharks!) to century eggs. The market is busiest and at its best in the morning. Watch your step as the floor will be wet and slippery. Admission to the market is free.

SMITH STREET

After you emerge from the market, orientate yourself such that you are facing Smith Street. This thoroughfare used to be the pulse of Chinatown until recently when it lost its charm to urban redevelopment. The street hawkers have vanished and many shopspaces are vacant as well, probably victims of the lack of tourists' attention and the excessively high rental.

The Singapore government tried to undo the damage of the urban redevelopment by turning the first section of the street into a "food street". However, this attempt to attract the crowds has only received lukewarm response. By local standards, the food found here is only mediocre.

Still, there are a few interesting shops along this street which are worth visiting; all located just around the intersection with Terangganu Street. Try a glass of "cooling tea" at a medical hall. The Chinese believe in "ying" and "yang", and the importance of balancing the elements. People sometimes feel unwell after too much "heaty" food (like chocolates and durians, for instance!). The cooling tea thus serves to bring down the "heat", and nurse the person back to health again. Pop by a joss house selling incense, joss paper and everything imaginable made out of paper e.g. paper beer cans, paper clothing, paper jewellery, etc. Taoists believe that burning these items will bring them to their deceased relatives in the afterworld.

TRENGGANU STREET

Head for Trengganu Street next. This street is crammed with shops selling clothes, antiques, wood carvings, etc. The goods are not sold at fixed prices, so test your bargaining skills here.

PAGODA STREET

The end of Trengganu Street is intersected by Pagoda Street. You can't miss the colourful row of shophouses along Pagoda Street, one of which is baby blue with yellow flowers painted all over.

Turn right onto Pagoda Street and take a few minutes to explore the Chinese furniture shops close to the end of this street. Many of the pieces are indeed very beautiful.

Where Pagoda Street meets South Bridge Road, you will find the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, SRI MARIAMMAN TEMPLE. This temple was built in 1827. Its entrance is along South Bridge Road. Remove your shoes before you enter. Walk only in a clock-wise direction and encircle the temple hall an odd number of times for good luck. Admission to the temple is free, but a Hindu devotee may approach you for money before you can take pictures inside. Hide your camera! I'm not sure he's entitled to ask for money for photo-taking inside a public place of worship. In any case, there isn't much to photograph inside the temple. The shots can be taken from the outside.

FAR EAST SQUARE

You should be hungry and tired by this time. After you exit from the temple, turn left onto South Bridge Road and keep walking until you reach Cross Street. Cross the road to get to the other side of Cross Street. Walk along Cross Street until you see a "Fire Gate" on your left. That would be one of the entrances to Far East Square, where you can pause for something to eat and drink in air-conditioned comfort.

Far East Square feeds the lunch-time crowd from nearby Raffles Place, the financial district of Singapore. It is most crowded between 12.30 p.m. to 1.30 p.m. on weekdays.

One of the more popular places to eat here would be a Japanese noodle joint called Beppu Ramen. It's famous for its spicy Demon Hell Ramen (Japanese noodles topped with deep-fried chicken). A meal with a soft drink at Beppu Ramen cost about S$10 per person. A cheaper, and equally popular, alternative would be the food court called the Food Opera. The fried beef horfun (Chinese flat rice noodles fried with black bean paste and topped with succulent slices of beef), beef noodles and laksa (rice noodles in spicy coconut milk gravy topped with fish cake and cockles) are all excellent. A meal with a soft drink here cost about S$5 per person.

PHILIP STREET

After you have had your fill, exit Far East Square and walk towards Church Street. At the traffic lights, cross Church Street and you will see Philip Street right before you.

At the corner of Church Street and Philip Street is the Yue Hai Ching Temple also known as the Wak Hai Cheng Bio. Built in 1826, this is the oldest temple in Singapore to be constructed by the Teochews, a Chinese dialect group from the Canton province in China. Like Thian Hock Keng, this temple is also dedicated to Ma Cho Po. Admission to the temple is free.

Located right in the heart of the financial district, you can experience the stark contrast of the old and the new in this temple. From behind its intricately designed ancient porcelain roof, modern skyscrapers loom. Inside the temple, the smoke from burning incense slowly spirals, whilst just outside, yuppies in the rat race hurry by.

During the Second World War when Singapore was occupied by the Japanese, this temple was used as a centre for handing out rice ration cards. A terrible stampede, killing 2 men, happened here when people rushed for their rice ration cards.

THE SINGAPORE RIVER

Walk to the other end of Philip Street and turn right onto Chulia Street. Keep walking even after Chulia Street meets Battery Road. Along Battery Road, look to your right and you will see a pocket of greenery surrounded by towering skyscrapers. This is Raffles Place.

Just opposite, you'll see a little lane called Bonham Road. Cross the road and walk down Bonham Road.

Soon you will be at the banks of the Singapore River, with a long row of colourful shophouses to your left. That area is known as Boat Quay. It is not worth visiting during the day as it is only well-known for its nightlife. You will return to Boat Quay at the end of this full-day walking tour.

CAVENAGH BRIDGE, FULLERTON HOTEL & ONE FULLERTON

Turn right and go past an old bridge across the Singapore River. This bridge is known as Cavenagh Bridge. In the afternoons, stray cats and kittens love to play and nap on it. You will return to Cavenagh Bridge shortly.

Head for the colonial building at the end of the walkway. This building is now a posh 6-star hotel called the Fullerton Hotel. In the colonial days, the building used to house the headquarters of the Singapore Post. Feel free to take a look inside the hotel.

Fullerton Hotel is linked to the waterfront complex of One Fullerton by an underground passage. One Fullerton is located by Marina Bay. From here, you can see the symbol of Singapore, the Merlion, spewing water from its mouth. You can also see the brand-new cultural and arts centre of Singapore, The Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, from a distance. You can't miss the theatre. It looks like the giant compound eyes of a fly!

Return to Cavenagh Bridge after your detour to One Fullerton. Cross the bridge, then turn to your left and continue walking along the walkway. It is a picturesque stretch, with the colourful shophouses of Boat Quay and skyscrapers of the financial district in the background.

NEW PARLIAMENT HOUSE & THE SUPREME COURT

Along this stretch, a Statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, marks the spot of his landing site in 1819.

At the end of the walkway is the new Parliament House. Where the Parliament House faces the Singapore River, there is a large "relaxation room" where Members of Parliament can enjoy the river view in comfortable massage chairs. They can see you, but you can't see them! There are no regular guided tours of the Parliament House. On a rare occasion when it opened its doors for public viewing, I was fortunate to be present!

Walk across the front of the Parliament House until you get to High Street. Turn right onto High Street and keep walking until it meets St Andrew's Road. Turn left at St Andrew's Road and you will find a colonial building with a green dome on your left. That is the Supreme Court. It houses the Court of Appeal and several courtrooms of the High Court. The rest of the High Court is housed in a separate building next door called the City Hall Building. Most trials and appellate hearings are conducted in open Court and Judges hear cases until about 4 to 5 p.m. on weekdays. High profile criminal cases attract large crowds. In Singapore, murder, kidnapping, and certain drug offences are amongst the offences which attract the death penalty. Should you choose to attend a hearing, bow to the Judge as you enter the courtroom and again as you leave the courtroom. You can enter and leave at any time during the hearing. However, you are not allowed to bring your cameras into the Supreme Court as photography is prohibited. Admission to the Court is free.

THE PADANG & ST ANDREW'S CATHEDRAL

Across the road from the Supreme Court is a field called the Padang, where cricket is often played.

Turn left at Coleman Street and you will see St Andrew's Cathedral, an Anglican church built in 1856, on your right.

You should be thirsty by now. Cross North Bridge Road and grab yourself a cold drink from either Peninsula Hotel or Funan Centre. The row of shops on the ground floor of Peninsula Hotel facing North Bridge Road can yield some pretty good bargains. There is a S$1 shop (i.e. a shop selling things at S$1 apiece) and a shop which is perpetually holding its "Closing Down" sale. If you're looking for non-pirated VCDs or DVDs, there's also a store here selling them at decent prices. Next to Peninsula Hotel is Funan Centre, otherwise known as the IT Mall. You can find everything related to computers at Funan Centre. The prices here are very competitive as well.

CLARKE QUAY & BOAT QUAY

As dinner time approaches, you have two obvious options.

One option is to dine at the food court at the basement of Funan Centre. Here, you can sample a variety of local fare e.g. chicken rice. Dinner with a soft drink would cost about S$5 per person. You can head for Clarke Quay and Boat Quay for some nightlife after that.

Alternatively, you can dine at the Satay Club at Clarke Quay. The food at the Satay Club is good, but expensive (say about S$10 or more per person, depending on the food and the quantity you order). The hawkers touting for customers can be very annoying as well. I was there in the first week of June and it was closed for constructions.

My pick would be to have dinner at the food court at Funan Centre and then pop over to Clarke Quay. If you're craving for some satay, order a small portion and don't cave into the harassment of the hawkers and order more food.

To get to Clarke Quay from Funan Centre, turn right and walk along North Bridge Road in the direction of Elgin Bridge, a bridge which joins North Bridge Road to South Bridge Road. Turn right just before the start of Elgin Bridge onto North Boat Quay. There is a paved walkway and underpass which will lead you directly to Clarke Quay.

Clarke Quay is filled with shops, street vendors, and eateries. The antique shops are particularly interesting. If you're into swashbuckling, stop by the sword shop called Medallion Lions. The street vendors sell everything from collectibles to Turkish ice-cream. Right smack in the middle of all this action is a gazebo spewing live music called the Voodoo Shack.

The night is still young and you can return to Boat Quay for more nightlife. Return to Boat Quay by the paved walkway and underpass you came to Clarke Quay by. The underpass will lead you directly to Boat Quay.

Boat Quay is a long chain of watering holes by the riverside. It is popular with the executives from the nearby financial district, who love their pint or two.

To return to the hostel from Boat Quay, you can ride the MRT from Raffles Place MRT Station (EW14). One of the entrances to Raffles Place MRT Station is just behind Boat Quay at UOB Plaza. The last train leaves Raffles Place MRT Station at about 11.45 p.m. Be sure to budget some time for your connecting train to Little India MRT Station (Will be operational soon).

~ Happy Walking ~

Comments / Update: In the day, the average outdoor temperature in Singapore is about 32 degrees celcius all yearlong. Dressing comfortably will certainly help you enjoy your walking tour more. Remember to bring lots of water with you as well.

 
Temple of Heavenly Happiness Entrance to the "Temple of Heavenly Happiness
Exquisite Woodworkings, no nails
 
 
More Exquisite wood carvings
typicalcourtyard Typical Courtyard
 
 

Enter by the side lane to go to Ann Siang Hill
Dried, not immediately identifiable stuff
 
 
The hustle & Bustle of a local wet market
Fine pottery
 
 

Fresh seafood in abundance
Freshly boiled Cooling Teas
 
 
Joss for offering to the dead. Note: mobile phone included.

Ethnic flavoured wood carvings
 
 
A trinket stall along the streets of Chinatown
Wood handicrafts
 
 
Gaily painted conservation shophouses

Decorative details on the roof of Hindu Temple
 
 
Details on the roofworks of the Hindu Temple

Main Entrance to Hindu Temple
 
 

Stark Contrast, what Singapore is all about.

Story telling motifs on the entrance of Chinese Temple
 
 
Fullerton Hotel from Boat Quay
Imagine, totally without nails
 
 

Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Modern Singapore
This was previously our General Post Office
 
 
Dining alfresco at Clarke Quay
The Parliament House
 
 
Vibrant atmosphere
A shot from the bridge looking at clarke Quay
 
 
Overview of Boat Quay
One of the many make shift stalls in Clarke Quay
 
 

Walking Tour Index . Home . Forums . The InnCrowd Hostel . Guestbook
Copyright since 2002 The InnCrowd. All Rights Reserved.